A cross country runner’s story of leadership and recovery
Let’s get to work,” said Mike McDowell, Olivet Nazarene University cross-country and track-and-field coach.
Senior Sarah Ray, cross country and track National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and All-American runner, is known by her fellow teammates as being a hard-worker and a leader.
But after experiencing a fracture in her foot her freshman year, she did not feel like a leader among her teammates or as team-oriented as she is acclaimed to be. Ray was stuck in her room everyday, physically incapable of doing the thing she loved most in the world: running.
However, through the help of her teammates and her love for the team and her relentless work ethic, Ray conditioned herself back to the top, senior Karley Divan said.
“[Sarah’s] work ethic is solid. Often times, you will have to pull her back because that is where the injury stuff comes in,” McDowell said.
Ray began running in her senior year of high school. A fellow student of hers saw her running at a basketball game and urged her to join the track team, so she did. The head coach pleaded with her to, at least, stay until the first meet. She agreed, but Ray said once you get started, you can’t stop and she kept running. She ran herself all the way up to NAIA and became an All-American.
Although Ray is extremely successful and good to work with, she has experienced quite a few serious health difficulties throughout her years at Olivet, McDowell said. According to her teammates, Ray is the type of person to push herself way too hard. She forgets to give her body rest because she is so adamant about her team, Divan said.
“I felt horrible,” Ray said. “Running was everything to me. Without being able to run, I just felt worthless.”
Through cautious training, healing and support from her teammates, especially that of former teammate Bethany Pilat, Ray was able to join the race once again.
Whenever she feels like asking herself “Why me?” when dealing with an injury, Ray turns to her team for support. But there was one specific person that helped Ray continue her rise to success: Bethany Pilat.
For Ray, Pilat played one, if not the largest and most influential role in her development as an individual and as an athlete.
Throughout her years at Olivet, Pilat experienced quite a few health issues herself, but no matter how bad she hurt, she would pick up the pace and keep pushing forward. Ray said that she aspired to be like Pilat just because of her unstoppable, determined attitude. Just like Pilat led Ray, Ray is now leading her teammates.
Ray is the type of athlete to easily recognize the role of a leader and take it. “On more relaxed days, she slows her pace to meet up with a struggling teammate,” McDowell said.
Ray said she is someone anyone can come to for anything.
“[Ray] is a really cool person in the fact that she has had to overcome a lot of health and life issues in the past couple of years,” Divan said. “But you never see her let that get her down. She is bummed, but she is ready for the next one. You do not necessarily see that quality of humility and gratefulness to be running in a lot of people at the top.”